How to Be an Intern in a Pandemic

By Anna Limina, MusicWorx Intern

First of all… take a deep breath. Completing your Music Therapy internship can be overwhelming and scary, especially when you throw in a major historical event altering all reality in the mix! As students, we have all worked extremely hard to get to where we are, now is not the time to give up!

In these times where we can’t be all be together in person, major things that we had planned for are being altered, put on hold, or cancelled all together. So, whether your internship has been made virtual, paused, or cancelled, here are some guidelines to help you navigate through these uncertain times.

1. Accept Reality

First of all, understand that this pandemic is out of our control, and does not take away from all of the hard work we’ve done to get to this point in our career. Take this all as a learning experience and accept what you cannot change, and realize what you still can do! Yes, it is ally unfortunate that the “normal” internship experience has been taken away from us. Allow yourself to grieve and process your emotions around this.

If your internship has been put on hold or cancelled, it doesn’t mean your education has been! Here are some things you can do in the meantime:

2. Set Realistic Expectations

The best piece of advice I’ve gotten during these times is to lower your expectations. For a lot of us future music therapists, we search for the best in ourselves and the ones around us. Your best will be different on different days. Everyone, including your supervisors, peers, and clients, are feeling some sort of stress from the world around us. Check in with yourself and set realistic goals and timelines for getting work done, considering your own physical and mental health and overall well-being.

3. Workspace

Set yourself up for success! Create a space where you live that is dedicated to your work. If you can, try to separate it from the space where you rest, unwind and relax. Organization is vital to your success and will help keep you moving. Surround your workspace with things that are comforting.

Benefits of a Separate Work Space:

  • Increased productivity
  • Decrease distraction
  • Feeling of a physical separation from work and home

4. Time Management & Boundaries

Create a routine, a schedule, and stick to it!

Because we are home all day and sometimes it seems that we can’t escape our virtual reality, create boundaries for yourself. Based on your work schedule, set times where you are available for others to contact you regarding work related things, and times where you are not available so you can focus on yourself!

5. Adapting/Flexibility

As an intern, a lot of things can be expected of us, and this experience will teach us how to adapt to anything!  As a music therapist, adapting to new situations and being flexible is a big key to being successful.

  • Adapting to virtual platform
    • We chose to train to be music therapists, because we are aware of the difference between live, active music masking opposed to “just listening to music”. Don’t lose sight of this!
    • We are so fortunate to have access to video calls so we can continue to serve our clients.
    • Prepare for technical difficulties
  • Using technology to your advantage
    • Set up microphones to improve quality of sound for your clients
    • Use screen sharing for image sharing and storytelling
    • Utilize different communication tools in zoom, such as the chat feature

While we don’t have the same opportunities as interns in the past as we work remotely, we have brand new opportunities that we can create.  With a virtual platform, we can offer services that are more accessible to people all around the country. Examples:

  • Working with the medically fragile (due to abuse or neglect, illness, congenital disorder or brain injury, he/she requires medications, treatments and/or specialized care or equipment)
  • Providing socialization and community for people who have trouble getting out of the house on their own
  • Offering services for larger groups of people from multiple locations

6. Communication

Now more than ever, communication is super important. Be honest and open with your peers and supervisors about what’s going on with your work. Remember, this is a new experience for the whole world! Networking is a big part of our internship experience, and during a time where virtual communication is so prevalent, take advantage of this and reach out to people who you normally wouldn’t be in physical contact with.

Expand your horizons.  Check in with your friends and peers who are also doing their internship and see if they have any insight or opportunities for you to observe or from which you can benefit! Sharing your resources, experience and knowledge with them as well can go a long way!

7. Self-care

During this time it is important Internship is stressful enough as it is, and all the new stresses a pandemic brings can start to become overwhelming, so be patient with yourself!

What is selfcare? Selfcare is defined as any activity that we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. As therapists, we have to leave our personal life and feelings at the door when we go and do a session. In a time where we are working from home, it is harder to separate our personal and work lives. Make sure that you’re on top of your self-care routine so that you can be present for your clients!

Selfcare resources:

Some examples for selfcare:

  • Meditation
  • Talk therapy
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercise, Yoga, Hiking
  • Facetiming friends & family
  • Engaging in a hobby completely outside of music
  • Journaling

8. Attitude

Don’t get discouraged! Your mindset is so important during this time. As much as some want to resent this pandemic, we should try to learn how to embrace the new challenges it’s presenting. Be patient and kind with yourself and those around you. Yes, things are not ideal for your learning, but take a step back and see what you do have access to and how we can move forward together in this. Use your resources (friends, peers, professors, supervisors, family).

Present yourself just as seriously as you would in person. Come to virtual meetings and sessions looking professional. Be prepared, stay focused, and be present!

Be proactive, don’t be reactive. Frustration will arise while we all navigate this time together. Do your best to stay calm and not let your emotions get the best of you. Plan for technical difficulty in sessions, set aside time to get work, practice and session plans done, and plan out time for self-care.

As our field starts to change and adapt to our new normal, all of our experiences will make us better music therapists.


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